“In the thirteen years of my pontificate, this is the biggest cross.”
—Pope Paul VI to Jean Guitton,
concerning Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre
and a potential schism
In response to the crisis within the Church following in the wake of the Second Vatican Council, Swiss Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre took certain actions that questioned his canonical standing with the Church. The most controversial was the consecration in 1988 of four new bishops without a papal mandate. Lefebvre has become the figurehead of what is called the “traditionalist movement” within the Church.
During the pontificate of Paul VI (1963-1978), deep concerns were raised about the possibility of Lefebvre causing a schism. Lefebvre’s differences with Paul VI were recently raised for discussion in the light of new historical disclosures and the impending canonization of Paul VI. In light of that ongoing discussion, I am providing a first-ever English translation of a forgotten conversation of Paul VI on Archbishop Lefebvre. First, however, a quick background on the recent developments.